Monday, September 14, 2015

News: Sheffield City Region asks for more

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The "ambitious set of proposals" for devolution from the Sheffield City Region (SCR) includes asking for £250m to support the proposed Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District and full localisation of Business Rates and Business Rate growth.

The SCR was one of 38 bids submitted from major cities and regions from across the country wanting to take control of how public money is spent in their local area.

Further details have emerged of just what issues the businesses and local leaders have identified as being crucial to speeding up economic growth in Sheffield City Region.

Boosting the pioneering Innovation District idea for the Sheffield-Rotherham corridor, the proposals ask for a £250m commitment to SCR as a national demonstrator for place based innovation programmes with LEPs. It adds that "Government investment will be matched by company investment at 50% and further leveraged through local resources to deliver a £600m science and innovation programme over five years."

Two key projects include a 41,000 sq ft "light weighting" centre – focused on the development of manufacturing techniques that will make use of materials with exceptional strength to weight properties more cost effective; and a Care Innovation centre, including Hospital 2050 - providing a bridge between industry, the university sector and the NHS.

Based around the Advanced Manufacturing Park in Rotherham and surrounding Enterprise zone, the aim is to develop Europe's largest research-led advanced manufacturing cluster. A spatial plan is expected to be complete by the end of 2015, including the exploration of a mass transit connection for the Innovation District.

Other asks based on business support include the permanent devolution of Regional Growth Fund budgets, the devolution of funding streams to the SCR and alignment with national business support products, and taking ownership of the AMP Technology Centre.
For skills, employment and education, asks include fully devolved responsibility, freedom and funding for post-19 vocational education and £21.6m over a six year term to deliver the flagship Skills Bank programme.

To make better use of publicly owned assets, the region wants to take control of a £43m pot for the delivery of a programme of already identified "quick win" housing sites, take a strategic role in planning and work on potential Development Zones and establish Development Corporations, and get more involved with the Government asset disposal programme.

Underpinning these asks is a ambitious set of financial proposals which includes taking full control of business rates that "would incentivise and empower SCR to invest in the longterm prosperity of our economy and drive the reform of public services, complementing our Single Pot and pioneering a radical approach to place budgeting."

Other asks include the Government providing an upfront payment of £100m for infrastructure investment, creating a pot based on a Payment by Results model; and more powers of potential levies, borrowing and discounts.

The region is also hoping to take responsibility for European Structural and Investment Funds and be given Intermediate Body status to do so.

On transport, the hope is to create a single pot of funding and for the devolving of powers to enable control of the bus network and the power to extend the existing Supertram network or construct other mass transit systems in the City Region.

The preference not to have an elected metro mayor imposed on the region is discussed but the proposals concede that a "Mayoral CA Model" may have to put in place to appease ministers.

Images: SCR LEP

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